Q and A with Boulder's Alpine Training Center Owner and Head Coach Connie Sciolino
1. What is your fitness background and how did it lead you to opening the Alpine Training Center?
I have a Master's in Exercise Science and I am a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist certified through NSCA. I think my fitness path really began as a high school athlete. I was a alpine ski racer from the age of 14. Obviously early on I never really prepared for winter sport and just did a bunch of different sports from soccer to basketball, volleyball, softball, tennis. Yeah I was an active child. Once I got to high school I raced with my high school team and a club team on weekends and I soon realized that I would need to "prepare" for the winter season. I started running and doing some made up workouts at home. After a year of high school racing I would head out Oregon for summer training which meant spring was also a prep time. These two shoulder seasons of pre-season training really hooked me on the fitness aspect of the sport while still loving the technical. Outside of college I still skied and still needed to prep for the season but really was looking for more. I did a lot of running and earnestly jumped into "aerobics" and began teaching classes and branching out into other areas of coaching. Running turned into marathons and aerobics turned into programming for runners & skiers. I had always enjoyed going to the gym and lifting weights, though now I laugh at myself for what I was trying to do, and learning. I always wanted to know more and try new things and push myself. I came across a gym in a Jackson designed for the skier, climber type and I jumped in whole heartedly. The training I did there is very similar to what we do at the ATC and it really help me decide that this was the direction I wanted to go. Leaving Jackson and coming to Boulder, which really is just Jackson on a larger scale - more people, more athletes, more outdoor sport opportunities, I knew that a gym similar to the Jackson gym would do well. And that's how the ATC came about.
2. There are many workout choices for Boulder County residents, what makes your facility unique?
Our main focus is outdoor performance. So while we train inside, I am always thinking about how the training is going to transfer outside. We work to improve outdoor performance as opposed to working to be better in the gym or to prepare for gym based competitions.
3. As we approach the winter season, what training areas should athletes be focusing on as they prepare for their respective sports?
It's a little sport specific but let's separate athletes into strength vs endurance. Nordic skiers ie cross-country or skate skiers and ski mountaineers are endurance athletes. Their primary goal is to boost their aerobic capacity, then add some core strength for injury prevention and then leg & upper body strength to boost performance. Downhill skiers are strength based. While a good aerobic base will help the athlete last all day they really need to focus on core & lower body strength not only to perform but to protect the back and the joints.
4. How important is strength training for your endurance athletes? What performance benefits can they expect with consistent weight training?
The single best way to increase an endurance athletes performance is to add strength training. First it helps prevent injuries. Runners are susceptible to all kinds of overuse injuries, not to mention the trip on the trail type of injuries. Strength training helps them become more durable and reduce the risk of injury. Secondly strength training will help running economy. So not only will an athlete be able to run faster they will be able to do it longer without losing form. Finally balance. Endurance athletes whether they are runners or cyclists are probably the most imbalanced athletes. Strong legs but often imbalanced from one to the other due to overuse injuries and their core & upper bodies are generally weak. Ask an utra runners to do 10 strict pushups in a row. You'll quickly see my point.
5. What is your favorite winter activity and location for its’ performance?
Skiing. I started skiing at age 7 and I hope to ski to the day I die. I alpine ski and backcountry ski and have many favorites. I spent many years skiing in Jackson Hole and its hard to beat it for both the downhill and backcountry skiing. But in Colorado my favorite downhill resort is Steamboat. I go there every year even if its just for a day but I always try for as many as possible. But with good snow our "hometown" resort of Eldora is pretty darn good. I'm still discovering the backcountry skiing in Colorado and try new places every year so to pick one would be premature. But honestly any day on skiis, wherever I am, is a good day.